In regard to the third “F” in Fit, Function, and Finances… does a quality gun necessarily have to be expensive? We’ll take a look at that question in this review of the EAA Windicator .38 Special/.357 Magnum Revolver.
Aside from the firearms I’ve used in conjunction with my military career, I’ve spent my “other” shooting career focused on firearms for competition, sporting, and personal defense. As such, I’ve spent only a fraction of that time shooting revolvers. I have noted, however, that a growing number of clients are interested in learning about revolvers for personal defense. I must admit that I have also become increasingly interested in carrying a revolver for camping or while out at the cabin due to their durability, reliability, and wide variety of ammunition, which includes snake-shot, which cannot be fired through semi-automatic pistols.
I discussed this topic with one of my friends who works at Cabela’s in Hamburg, PA and mentioned that I was in the market for a rugged snub-nosed .38 special/.357 magnum revolver that could fit my large hand. He showed me a wide variety of revolvers from Ruger, Smith and Wesson, and Taurus that ranged from $450.00 to $900.00. Since I was only going to incorporate this revolver into basic firearms instruction and the occasional camping trip or weekend at the cabin, I challenged my friend to find one that met my specifications at or below $300.00. After a few minutes, he presented me with the EAA (European American Arms) Windicator, which is a 2 inch snub-nose blued revolver in .38/.357… for under $300.00!
Although it was a small 2 inch snub-nose, this revolver felt solid and the generous grip filled my large hand quite well. A cursory inspection verified that the lock-up and timing were acceptable. Dry-firing verified that the double action trigger pull was long and heavy compared to the short and light single action pull. Everything checked-out at the counter, but I wanted to do a little more research before committing to the purchase.
Over lunch, I looked-up everything I could find on the EAA Windicator. European American Arms (EAA), based in Florida, has been importing this revolver from a German company named Weihrauch for quite some time. The reviews spanned the gamut from “phenomenal” to “worthless.” A few reviewers cited their revolver losing its timing after firing thousands of high pressure .357 rounds or claiming that it was insufficient for IDPA shooting. Many reviewers cited that it was a great bargain for the price.
Since my expectations and intended usage were more in line with the price point than those who expressed disappointment in their reviews, I purchased the revolver, a few boxes of American Eagle .38 Special ammo, and set out to test it and form my own opinions. With the help of my friend, Al Rice, we put the Windicator through its paces at Sharpshooters in Lorton, VA.
By the Numbers
The EAA Windicator is a 2 inch snub-nosed six-shot single action / double action revolver chambered in .38 special and .357 magnum. Its fixed sights are comprised of a plain black ramp blade in the front and a plain “U” shaped fixed channel in the back. The overall length is 7 inches. This revolver has a substantial black rubber grip and weighs 30 ounces (nearly 2 pounds) empty! This is significant when you compare it to some of the popular snub-nosed .38/.357s like the Ruger LCR weighing-in at 17 ounces and the comparable Taurus and Smith and Wesson models weighing in at roughly 20 ounces (and with MSRPs from $500 to $700). The double action trigger pull exceeded the 10 pound limit on my spring-scale, but the single action pull registered a consistent 4 pounds across six tests.
As mentioned above, the Windicator’s grip was substantial enough to fill my hand, but was not so prohibitively large that a shooter with a smaller hand couldn’t establish a sufficient and comfortable grip. This revolver pointed naturally and the “length of pull” (distance from the back-strap to the trigger face) was appropriate for me to place the pad of my index finger where it belonged for a smooth trigger pull. From a double action start, the length of pull measured 2.525 inches and the sear broke at 2.105 inches, which means that 10+ pounds of steady pressure had to be applied throughout the trigger’s 0.420 inch travel. Conversely, cocking the hammer for a single action shot reduced the length of pull to 2.170, which leaves the shooter to apply 4 pounds of pressure over a very short 0.065 inch to break the shot.
Again, I chose this revolver as a training aid for basic firearms instruction and as a utility firearm while camping or at the cabin. As such, the 2 inch snub nose makes it ideal for the classroom and the field. Also, while many new revolver designs for concealed carry are double-action-only “hammerless” (where the internal hammer has no exposed spur), I needed a DA/SA revolver with exposed hammer and spur for instruction and to provide the option of a heavy and deliberate double action or planned and light single action shot.
As far as the mechanics of this revolver are concerned, it functions as well as its more expensive cousins and its “timing” was decent. The cylinder latch reliably releases the crane/cylinder and re-locks it when put back into place. Whether through a double action trigger pull or via cocking the hammer, the substantial ratchet “teeth” firmly engaged and rotated the cylinder.
As mentioned earlier, this revolver is HEAVY for its size. When you pick it up you can feel the density within its compact design. In my opinion, this is a requirement for a snub nose revolver firing .357 magnum cartridges. In this respect, the Windicator acquitted itself well as its mass and density dissipated the considerable impulse of the .357 magnum round. I can only imagine the “felt recoil” and impulse of firing such a cartridge out of the 15 ounce Smith and Wesson model 442!
And now we get to the underlying premise of the article… the finances. If you recall, this was one of my driving factors for selecting this revolver. There are many other manufacturers and models that offer a 2 inch snub-nose DA/SA .38 special/.357 magnum, but I admittedly wanted to find one at a price point under $300.00. Gander Mountain lists this revolver for $299.00 and other outlets like Buds Gun Shop list it for $283.00. If you are willing to put some time into a more exhaustive search, you can find them for closer to $260.00.
OK… so there have got to be trade-offs at this price point… right? Otherwise, Smith and Wesson and other manufacturers wouldn’t be selling their revolvers for two and three times as much.
This is correct. One of the most notable trade-offs can be seen in the quality of the metal finishing. This model has a number of tool marks and rough edges in many places. Click the photo to the right to see a larger view of the tool marks. These marks occur either when a cutting die is run at an incorrect speed or when it has been used past its optimal “sharpness.” We normally see such marks in high-volume production facilities. Hell, the EAA web page describes the Windicator in a brutally honest manner: “it’s not the sleekest, or the lightest, or even the prettiest, but the Windicator is ready when you need it! With its six shot, double/single action, the Windicator gets the job done!” I’d have to concur.
The second POTENTIAL trade-off is durability. So far, I’ve only fired 500 rounds through this revolver. During those 500 rounds, it has performed admirably and perhaps comparable to the more expensive versions. However, it would take a few thousand more rounds to determine if it has the durability and longevity of the other manufacturers.
At this point, we’ve thoroughly covered Fit, Function, and Finances. So now, let’s talk about how the Windicator performed on the range. After a thorough cleaning, Al Rice and I fired the first 50 shots of American Eagle 130 grain Full Metal Jacket .38 Special ammo through the Windicator at Sharpshooters Indoor Range in Lorton, VA. The combination of the revolver’s considerable weight/mass and the solid rubber grip performed well together as they dissipated the impulse of the shot and made for smooth and comfortable shooting. The long and heavy double action trigger pull was consistent and easy to manage. The short and light single action trigger pull was surprisingly smooth and quick.
What surprised me the most was the short-range accuracy. I didn’t expect to get any appreciable accuracy from a snub nosed .38 shooting range ammo, but this revolver performed quite well. Click on the image to the left for a larger view. In this test, I shot a series of untimed single action five-shot groups from distances ranging from 10 feet to 30 feet in the standing off-hand position.
Keep in mind, I’m used to shooting pistols with fully adjustable sights that are either three-dot or black-serrated style. So it took a few practice shots to get used to fixed sights that are black, plain, and smooth. As you can see, however, the point of impact was fairly close to the point of aim and the little revolver and I were able to keep fairly consistent groups from 0.5 inches at 10 yards to 1.5 inches at 30 yards. I have to admit, this is much better than I expected… this little revolver performed quite well!
- Low price / affordability
- Mechanical precision
- Versatility to shoot both .38 Special and .357 Magnum in a variety of cartridges
- Substantial weight/mass to dissipate impulse
- Short barrel produces significant muzzle flash with standard .38 Special cartridges in “standard” lighting. The effect would be more profound in low light and even moreso with .357 Magnum ammunition.
- Lack of refinement which includes tool marks and rough edges.
- Fixed sights.
- Foreign import which could make customer service and/or repair service more challenging.
I think it is clear, the Pros outweigh the Cons and for my intended purposes, the trade-offs are more than acceptable. For shooters who are interested in an economical snub nosed .38/.357 work horse, I’d highly recommend the EAA Windicator. As we’ve covered in the article, shooters will be disappointed if they expect the quality, refinement, customer service, and name recognition offered by Smith and Wesson, Ruger, Taurus, etc., for under $300.00.
For me, I’m very impressed with the first 500 shots fired through this revolver and look forward to incorporating it into my training classes and having it on my side out camping and at the cabin.
Which guns would you like us to review for you? Sound off in the comments below or shoot me an e-mail at HHall@aegisacademy.com
In the meantime, stay safe and shoot straight.
– Howard Hall